The 2016 Cubs postseason was so full of drama and excitement that there is almost no win from the entire 11-game slate of victories that doesn’t fill me with some sense of “OMG that was AMAZING”. I’m sure a big part of that is simply the fact that the stakes are so high in those games, and the competitiveness so high, that a Cubs fan is necessarily going to attach an extra layer of drama to everything, even if the game wasn’t actually all that dramatic.
But you certainly can’t say that the drama and excitement of the very first game of the postseason for the Cubs was merely an artifice of our fandom.
Instead, it was a classic postseason game one: you had two aces pitching like aces, two excellent defenses keeping things close, and a sense throughout the game that a single run could be the entire difference.
With all appropriate credit to Johnny Cueto, who was legitimately excellent, Jon Lester was a boss in that game. When you think about the stakes and about what Lester was signed to do with the Cubs, it’s hard to do much better than eight scoreless innings, allowing just five hits, no walks, and striking out five.
Cueto, of course, matched Lester through nearly eight innings – and, with 10 strikeouts, was arguably more dominant – but he made a mistake to Javy Baez in the 8th inning, and Javy didn’t miss it:
I will never forget the moment of that swing. I was watching in a packed Yak-Zies, a bar across the street from Wrigley Field, and the moment the ball left Baez’s bat, I jumped into the air in a twisting, screaming motion, which took me away from viewing the screen momentarily. The ball hung in the air so long that I had time to offer many happy high fives before I turned back around, only to see the ball barely reach the basket in left field. WHEW.
I couldn’t believe it when Angel Pagan looked to be settling under the ball, which had clearly been absolutely crushed. But the wind was howling in from left, and Baez had hit the ball so high that there was maximum wind impact – which, if you never knew the numbers for it, can be a 50+ foot change in distance when the wind is blowing in at even a decent clip (let alone 20+ mph). In other words, a ball hit like Baez’s – 107mph off the bat, 36 degree launch angle – is usually way, way gone. Without wind, that one is way up in the bleachers. With wind blowing out, the ball is bouncing out on the street.
In the end, and on the scoreboard, a homer is a homer, and that was the run the Cubs needed to win the game.
Enjoy it, Javy:
Basket of joy. https://t.co/KnsvU3rqND
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) October 8, 2016